For sure each of us has this familiar story: You work hard on something for months or years on end only to be invalidated or totally discredited. Sometimes, colleagues would steal your ideas and they would get the accolades, other times your great work and development would simply get unnoticed and worst is when despite all evidences that you’re doing well or you’ve produced tangible great results you’ll be told you’re not good enough right in your face and that what you’re doing is unimpressive or totally unworthy of reward.
I’ve had my own share of all sorts of invalidation since I was a kid. I would say half of the time it’s because of my introversion and half of it is because I simply display this aura of not giving a fuck to other people’s validation of me or the lack thereof.
I wouldn’t be a hypocrite though and say that I don’t feel hurt when my hard work and contribution go unnoticed and when others get credit for what they do and who they are. I won’t say I don’t get hurt when people look down on me because I’m an introvert and I hate small talks, even though I can pull it off, too and be awesome at it if I push myself to. It sucks to be in those situations.
On the other hand, though, because of those experiences I’ve learned not to depend on other people’s validation in doing great work and in pushing myself to be better. I’ve learned to have other means of getting the kick that I need. I just strive to be good at what I do because I love the process of mastering something.
Because I have learned not to rely on compliments and rewards to be good at something, I’ve also learned how not to be devastated by criticisms when they strike me.
I can still remember a particular incident when I was 9 nine years old, and was at the top of my class of around 200 students. There was a time when a classmate of mine and I both got perfect scores in a written activity in our English subject. The activity required objective answers so there was no way we could have different answers. My teacher asked to take a look at our work sheets. After taking a quick look at my classmate’s work sheet, she told her “Very good!”, and my classmate picked up her sheet and went back to her seat. I quickly stood up and handed her my sheet when it was my turn to do so. She didn’t even really looked at it and then she told me without even looking at me, “It’s so-so.” I couldn’t on earth make sense of her remark. My classmate and I both had the same answers but I didn’t know how could she give different comments on each of our work.
I wasn’t really hurt about what she did. There were these thoughts/feelings I had instead: 1.) I have concluded that some adults were just plain absurd and stupid., 2.) My work and myself will not be evaluated fairly all the time and that’s not my fault, 3.) Competing with others was simply not my thing. I didn’t have any interest on it. I was indifferent. It was senseless for me. 4.) I won’t ever be able to please everyone despite doing my very best – and that although I could get unfair evaluations from others, it’s really not something I should take personally.
I didn’t let that incident derail me or put a blow on my self-esteem. It didn’t affect my perseverance or passion in learning. I kept on acing my studies until I graduated my grade school – and until I graduated college, actually. I just didn’t pay so much attention to others’ evaluation of me. What’s interesting though, was that this classmate of mine who was used to getting compliments, eventually dropped out of our school and transferred to a new school simply because she couldn’t accept the fact that she cannot beat me – and other top students in our batch – which caused her embarrassment and led to her low self-esteem.
I felt sorry for her because she has put too much emphasis on the value other people placed on her instead of rooting for her own intrinsic and indestructible value. She was a smart, hardworking and nice student. I saw her as a friend. I liked hanging out with her because she’s fun and really nice. Surely, she had become successful in whichever career she chose to pursue. It’s just sad what happened to her at that time.
I didn’t know that I’d be able to keep on coming back to that experience and use that in times when all I can rely on was my own self-belief. I didn’t know it would be so valuable to learn that at a young age.
I recently experienced something similar and instead of feeling low, I just recollected that memory and the lessons I got from it. Now I’m able to brush off what happened and just laugh at it. It’s a great feeling to be able to transcend those ego-based rewards and see the subtle truth behind it.